Foreman goes into training for boxing bio

Michael Fleming is on vacation

NEW BOXING BIO CONTENDER: Two-time world heavyweight boxer George Foreman is climbing into the fight-biopic ring. He’s shopping a life story project to be produced by HBO Sports veteran Ross Greenburg, based on Foreman’s bestselling Random House bio “By George” and his personal experiences. Foreman might even play himself in the latter part of his life.

Greenburg’s HBO resume includes pics, docus and the pay web’s regular prizefight coverage (with Foreman as commentator). While HBO will be shown the script once a writer’s hired, Foreman and Greenburg might go the feature route.

Studios are suddenly enamored of prizefighter biopics, with “The Hurricane” generating strong buzz, a Sonny Liston biopic firmed with Ving Rhames, and a Muhammad Ali biopic crystallizing with Will Smith. In addition, USA Network disclosed plans for an unauthorized bio of Foreman.

Like Liston, Foreman was an uneducated thug saved by boxing, slugging his way to an Olympic Gold medal and heavyweight title. Like Liston, he scowled, was uncommunicative to the media, and inspired cheers when he was felled by Ali.

But, a decade older and much heavier, Foreman made a comeback as a paunchy preacher raising money for his George Foreman Youth & Community Center. By the time he knocked out Michael Moorer to win back the title, Foreman was an eloquent folk hero, the most popular champ since Ali and a media darling. He’s gone on to become a product pitchman who just made $137.5 million to permanently lend his likeness to a portable hamburger grillmaker.

What prompted the change? “When he retired, George went into the ministry for a decade and had a metamorphosis,” said his attorney, Henry Holmes, who handled the movie deal with Greenburg’s attorney Richard Hofstetter. “He spent time and learned how to move people with his words; he learned about life. The second time, he was ready.”

Foreman’s now 50, just had his 10th child, and continues to finance the youth center. “There are so many startling and dramatic turns in this man’s life that transformed him from an early street thug to an adorable 46-year-old heavyweight champion,” said Greenburg. “It’s a story that needs to be told, and George is ready to tell it with no holds barred.”

LOPEZ PAIRS WITH ECKHART: After making his debut as a loathsome lothario in “In the Company of Men,” Aaron Eckhart is a magnet for the town’s top female stars. After playing Julia Roberts’ love interest in the Steve Soderbergh-directed “Erin Brockovich,” Eckhart’s near a deal play male lead opposite Jennifer Lopez in “Angel Eyes,” the Luis Mandoki-directed Warner Bros. film. The pic’s produced by the Mark Canton’s Canton Co. and Elie Samaha’s Franchise Pictures, and steered by WB exec veep Rob Guralnick. CAA’s negotiating for Eckhart.

INDUSTRY COVETS ‘COAT’: Industry Entertainment and producer Michael Gruskoff made a six-figure option deal for the Avon novel “Faded Coat of Blue.” Penned by Owen Parry, the book is described as “A Few Good Men” set in the Civil War, in which a wounded soldier is conscripted by a Union general to investigate the murder of a wealthy abolitionist soldier. The trail leads to D.C., and all the way up the Abe Lincoln.

Gruskoff called it “a solid whodunit in which nothing is what it appears to be, set in a terrific and original venue.” William Morris’ Robert Gottlieb and Dan Strone repped the writer, with WMA also repping Industry.

JEFF’S THE TOP IN ‘TEN’: Jeff Goldblum’s signed to star in “One of the Hollywood Ten,” an indie pic about actors, writers and directors placed on the Hollywood blacklist. Goldblum will play writer Herbert Biberman, who, with his actress wife Gale Sondergaard, found themselves blackballed. The pic was written and will be directed by Karl Francis, and produced by Stuart Pollack and Juan Gordon. Shooting starts in Spain in January. Goldblum’s shooting “Auggie Rose” and just wrapped Bel Air’s “Chain of Fools.” He’s repped by Endeavor and Industry.

CRAZY FOR ‘JANE’: While there are enough superhero sagas in development to fill the Justice League of America, Warner Bros. and producer Aaron Meyerson have a new take on the genre. Meyerson’s set up “Crazy Jane,” a character from the DC comic book anthology Doom Patrol who’s “Sybill” in spandex: she has a multiple personality disorder, with each manifestation possessing a different superpower.

Meyerson recently exec produced a similarly adaptable superhero, “Inspector Gadget.” “Crazy Jane” will have the darker tone of “Batman,” and will be scripted by Brian Nelson (“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”), who sold it to the studio as a pitch hatched with Meyerson. Buzz had Sandra Bullock circling the project as potential star and producer, but a spokeswoman denied that she would be involved, and WB has been wooing her hard to star in its “Wonder Woman” film. Nelson’s repped by Jonathan Westover at the Gage Group.

DISHINGS: Don’t be surprised if Jet Li soars in 2000. WB and producer Joel Silver tested “Romeo Must Die” to scores exceeding Silver’s last hit, “The Matrix.” Silver signed for Li’s next pic off test results in the same theater on “Lethal Weapon 4,” and Li’s got half a dozen offers in the $5 million range for his next slot … This columnist will file through the holidays, but this is the last Dish column until the millennium. Cheers.

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